All fans being urged to sing French national anthem
Wembley arch to be lit in colors of Tricolore
England fans' group urges show of solidarity
It had been planned as a prestige end-of-year friendly – but England’s meeting with France at Wembley Tuesday will instead become a 90,000-strong tribute to the victims of the Paris terror attacks.
France goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris told a news conference the occasion would be “a great moment of solidarity,” and said he and his teammates wanted to “play for our country and for the victims.”
And national coach Didier Deschamps said: “We will be here with even more pride than we normally would to represent our colors, of blue, white and red, our country, proudly.”
On Saturday, both the French Football Federation (FFF) and the English Football Association (FA) issued statements to confirm that the game would go ahead in the aftermath of the atrocity, in which at least 129 people died at a series of locations across the French capital Friday.
The attacks, the worst violence in Paris since the Second World War, saw an area close to the Stade de France targeted as France played World Cup winners Germany in a friendly match.
Explosions, which claimed the lives of four people, could clearly be heard in the stadium although the match, won 2-0 by France, was played to a conclusion.
Security guards in the area told CNN that one of the bombers tried to enter the stadium but was stopped by security.
Both the German and French teams stayed in the stadium overnight, with acting German FA president Reinhard Rauball praising the France players for their “outstanding gesture of camaraderie.”
Deschamps, who thanked people around the world for their solidarity, said: “We heard the explosions, but we were so focused on the game that we didn’t realize what it was.
“We only became aware at the end of the match, and then we realized what a disaster had taken place at the stadium and in the center of Paris.
“It is the very first time a stadium, football players and supporters, have been a target for a terrorist attack. But sport has a way of uniting people. Sport is the very representation of everyday life.
“I have always considered it an honor to represent my country, and that responsibility is even more important today. Those on the field have a duty of representing and symbolizing the values of sport.”
Fans leaving at the end of the game, bewildered but defiant, sang French national anthem La Marseillaise – and now all those present at Wembley on Tuesday are being urged to do the same in a show of unity with the people of France.
The words to the anthem will be displayed on the stadium’s giant screens, while the landmark Wembley arch will be lit in the colors of the French Tricolore. The French national motto – Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite – will glow from screens outside the ground.
“La Marseillaise will be a very emotional moment, very special,” Lloris said. “It will be amazing if the England fans can sing La Marseillaise and share in this moment.
“Everybody is aware of the dramatic circumstances that we have had. We have had some days to mourn. It is hard.
“We have been touched by messages from all over the globe, particularly in England. I know the English very well from being with Tottenham Hotspur, and I know they will help us to commemorate and do the right thing and support us before the game.”
Earlier, FA chief executive Martin Glenn confirmed that the French anthem would be sung and said: “I think that will be a powerful thing.”
He added: “The eyes of the world will be on this game. It is important to do something to show that terrorism cannot win.”
Michael Adams, of the FA’s official England Supporters’ Club, said: “We should all show our solidarity by singing La Marseillaise along with the French fans. It would send out a very powerful sign.”
The group’s Garry Hodgkinson urged England fans to “stand shoulder to shoulder with our French cousins and pay our respects to those who sadly lost their lives.”
France midfielder Lassana Diarra, who lost a cousin in the attacks, and Antoine Griezmann, whose sister escaped the deadliest assault at the Bataclan theater, where 89 people died, are in a full 23-man France squad that has traveled to London for the match.
FFF president Noe Le Graet said the decision to play the match had been taken by “me alone,” with reports suggesting some France players had been surprised to be told that it would go ahead.
England coach Roy Hodgson said Monday: “I would encourage everyone at Wembley to sing La Marseillaise.
“It will be a tough night, I’m sure, for the French players, but they’ll give everything they can to make France proud.”
He echoed calls for a show of solidarity with France and added: “I’ve got to say I’m finding it hard to balance the enormity of the occasion with questions about the football players. We can’t deny that there is something over this game that is far greater than football.”
The long shadow cast by the horrors of Friday means Tuesday’s game will see the biggest security operation ever conducted at the new Wembley stadium.
After discussions between the FA, the Metropolitan Police and government officials, fans are being told to arrive early, with arrangements having been made for stringent personnel and bag checks and extra security forces around the stadium and on transport routes leading to the national stadium.
Armed officers will also be on standby.
France will host the European Championship across June and July 2016, with tournament organizer Jacques Lambert pledging that the “necessary decisions” would be taken to ensure the event took place safely.
But the country’s legendary striker Just Fontaine, who scored an astonishing 13 goals in six games at the 1958 World Cup, has said he believes France should relinquish their right to stage the event.
The Marrakech-born 82-year-old told German newspaper Die Welt: “Any other country could stage the event, but we cannot. I think France should forgo the tournament.
“I am very afraid that this black Friday could be repeated. I think we cannot guarantee the safety that is required to host such a big event. It is simply too dangerous.
“Do you really think that people are going to go to the Stade de France in future?”
A minute’s silence was held across Europe Monday in memory of those who lost their lives in the atrocity.